The Implications of Active Media Engagement

So the election is done and we move on to the analysis. No shortage today of analysis on why Sen. Obama was elected. Nearly every social networking tool has claimed a role in the victory. You can find them. In fact, you probably already have.

Whether you agree or not, there is a point that has been missed. We’re getting too deep into the weeds with this technical analysis of social media’s impact on building the brand that was and will be Obama. How he used each tool in the warchest to successfully market himself as the hipper, more in touch, more ready to impart change and more whatever else you want to fill in is beside the initial point. The key takeaway from this past election is that Senator Obama used technology to market with a new voice. He realized the implications of the shift from passive media consumption to active media engagement.

Marketing has long filled a niche. It has supported our passive habits. We received entertainment from radio, television, newspapers and magazines. These were affordable (and sometimes free) because we were willing to trade our attention for subsidization. While we talked, the television was on in the background. While we drove, the radio played. While we whittled away Sunday mornings in idle conversation, the newspaper provided added fodder for discussion. Marketing messages bombarded us from all directions while we passively consumed our entertainment.

Then came the Internet. The Internet has been many things to many people. Above all else, it has been active engagement. Mobile as well. We do not flip on digital media in the background. It commands center stage. Sure, we read, we watch, we listen – but we act as well. Traditional media has discovered the insatiable appetite for comments. A story is no longer good enough. We need an immediate voice. Then, we venture forth to share what we like, organize what we learn and should we be so bold, create what we desire.

Before we get too technical about digital strategy, we should focus on one absolute. Our media consumption has become active.

For now President Elect Obama, this resulted in an ability to take his marketing messages and spread them far beyond any reach of traditional means. He used social technologies to empower his evangelists. He used mobile technologies to arm his foot soldiers. And he used his web site to seed the conversation and connect the solitary.

In pre digital ages, he would have relied on individual voices reaching out over dinner or at a bar. Hearty political debate, the kind we’re most familiar with, would have ensured. In this new age, he set his voice and connected thousands that would bring it to millions more – each iteration more relevant than the last. The Senator’s message had been crafted and recrafted to suite every need. All the while, his competitor’s message was controlled by one source, the campaign. While that eventual campaign remained muddled in conflicting messaging, the Obama message shined through from the mouths of those most affected by the implications – the people themselves.

If the election taught us anything about marketing in this new age, it should be remembered how today’s media consumers have become active. They will act on behalf of their chosen brand if only given the means. And no message put forth by a campaign can match the persuasion of that brought forth by a friend, family member, neighbor or coworker.


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